BAD AXE – County planners and wind developers have reacted to a stringent wind energy ordinance drafted by Lake Township and its implications, at least on the surface.
Clark Brock, county planning commission chairman, said without giving a full read, certain parts of the ordinance are “more limiting” than most other township ordinances.
“We certainly aren’t going to say we concur with it because it’s considerably different than Huron County’s,” Brock said.
And on paper, that observation holds true.
Lake Township, which doesn’t operate under county zoning, has proposed a 26-page draft ordinance that dwarfs the eight-page spread of Huron County’s wind energy facility overlay zoning ordinance and nine-page document regulating wind energy conversion systems.
Municipalities must adopt wind energy ordinances before wind turbines can be erected. And Lake Township’s proposal differs from the county in key areas – mostly in its restrictions and regulation.
Huron County generally operates under recommendations from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wind turbines be set back three miles from the shoreline. But the county has stressed it is a recommendation – not a regulation.
Planners in Lake Township, however, have taken that recommendation and turned it into regulation: Turbines must be set back three miles from not only the shoreline, but the more than 2,100-acre Rush Lake State Game Area and adjacent wetlands or “any other ecological and environmentally sensitive areas,” according to the draft.
The draft states turbines also must be set back a minimum of one mile from the Pigeon and Pinnebog river boundaries.
Mike Serafin, a DTE project manager, said DTE has “significant holdings in Lake Township” but that land eligible for wind turbine development is limited to the northeast corner of the township, and would be “not more than six sections or 12 turbines”
“I have been approached by a landowner and this would virtually eliminate every piece of Lake Township,” Serafin said.
Other key areas Lake Township’s ordinance differs from the county:
• Resident setbacks – Lake Township: Wind turbine setbacks of two times the total height from a participating residence, and four times the total height or 1,700 feet, whichever is greater, from any property line of a non-participating parcel. County: 1,320 feet from non-participant residence and 1,000 feet from participant residence.
• Shadow flicker – Lake Township: Turbines shall not be allowed to cast a shadow upon an adjacent or nearby non-participating parcel’s principal structure in excess of 30 hours measured on a continuous 365-day basis. County ruling – Not regulated, but may require developer to conduct analysis on potential shadow flicker at adjacent occupied structures and measures to eliminate problems.
• Ambient sound levels – Decibel limits reduced from 50 dBA (county) to 40 dBA (Lake Township) on participating parcels, and from 45 dBA to 35 dBA on non-participating parcels.
The draft also states “wind energy systems” or “meteorological towers” are permitted only in the agricultural district and only by special use permit. Developers also must provide third-party studies on wildlife and endangered species.
Lake Township planners made a motion to submit its draft to county planners and the Lake Township board for review late last month.
County planners say they haven’t yet read the ordinance in its entirety, and won’t have time to either concur or address problems in it before deadlines, set by state statute, pass by.
“We obviously are not going to tell a township that is not under county zoning how they have to do it,” Brock said.
The board made a motion to acknowledge that the draft has been received.
Brock said Steve Allen, the county’s corporate counsel who helps advise the Wind Energy Zoning subcommittee, has reminded the board before on a number of occasions that “we currently appear to be looking at wind or alternative energy in a different light than we look at most other industrial sources in the county when it comes to zoning.”
“If we zone too restrictive, the state will come in and take over,” said Planning Commissioner Mary Babcock.
Lake Township planners say safety is the foundation of the entire ordinance, and that the draft is more restrictive given setbacks from the shoreline.
Residents at a planning commission meeting late last month say the township covers a small area with “unique” features.
“We’re smaller than most; we’ve got a lot of lake shoreline, we’ve got Rush Lake and Sleeper State Park,” said Bill Williams. “This is our township, not the developers. Huron County doesn’t need turbines in every township. Huron County has become one large industrial wind factory.”
The township’s previous ordinance, which aligned closely with county regulations, was adopted but did not go into effect. A petition was filed in early July 2011 by resident Clay Kelterborn, who wanted to put the ordinance up for a vote of the people. In 2012, a referendum asking residents to approve the adoption of the township’s wind energy zoning ordinance was voted down 207-128. At the time, 46 percent of the 725 registered voters in Lake Township cast votes on the matter.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding